C.J. McCollum is back in Rip City, set to take on a Portland Trail Blazers team that's a shell of the one he left at the trade deadline. Don't expect McCollum to play vengeful adversary when he takes the floor with the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, though.
As the beloved former Blazer reiterated during pregame media availability, he holds no ill will toward Portland.
"This is the final step"
CJ McCollum on finding closure. His first game in Portland since the trade to New Orleans.
— Orlando Sanchez (@orlandokgw) March 30, 2022
McCollum's lasting affinity for the team that drafted him in the late lottery out of Lehigh University in 2013 comes as no surprise.
The Blazers' transformational trade deadline might have shocked some fans still clinging to hope of another deep playoff run behind McCollum and Damian Lillard. The players involved in Portland's deadline sell-off, though, were kept in the loop by interim general manager Joe Cronin and the front office.
McCollum, in fact, even collaborated with the Blazers on finding him an optimal trade destination.
“I was actually involved in the process. I was able to speak to our front office, specifically Joe [Cronin] about the transition that I was potentially going to make, what that would look like for not only myself and my family, but what potential teams I could be going to,” McCollum wrote in The Players' Tribune.
“It was a great adult conversation that we had, and one I’m thankful for, in which I was able to be a part of the process and able to be aware of everything that was going down. Once we kind of decided that it was in my better interest to continue to perform and be a basketball player somewhere else, it was just a great conversation and situation in which I’m thankful.”
The jersey of McCollum's opposition on Wednesday will obviously be extremely familiar, but most of the players wearing them won't be his former teammates. Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little are all out for the season's remainder, leaving McCollum and the Pelicans to battle with the likes of Brandon Williams, Keon Johnson and Drew Eubanks.
Either way, the nostalgia will be palpable at Moda Center, with McCollum bound to get the rousing ovation from an adoring crowd a player of his tenure and caliber with Portland deserves.